‘Do not employ.’

tribunal hearing legal case

A pharmacist who brought a High Court defamation claim against his former employer had argued his privacy case before a human rights tribunal

The pharmacist in question was employed by a New Zealand pharmacy from 1 January 2013 until 27 June 2014, when he resigned in the midst of an employment investigation.

This investigation centred around another employee who had admitted to stealing money from the pharmacy.

She had alleged that the pharmacist was involved in these thefts and that she had banked money into his account, providing text messages as evidence to support this.

Other issues that arose in the course of the investigation included the pharmacist’s alleged consumption of alcohol at work, frequent absences from the pharmacy and possible misuse of drugs.

The pharmacist resigned partway through the investigation and did not provide a full response or explanation as to the various allegations.

However while applying for a new position in an associated pharmacy, a director at his former place of employment arranged for a handwritten fax to be sent to other pharmacies in the area stating “do not employ” and providing them with details of the allegations which had formed the basis of a disciplinary meeting that had taken place.

This director also notified the NZ Pharmacy Council of his concerns about the pharmacist.

In October 2014 the Pharmacy Council imposed conditions upon the pharmacist’s scope of practice and required him to disclose the Council’s investigation to any future pharmacy employers.

On 15 January 2015 the pharmacist filed a High Court claim against his former employer alleging defamation and malicious falsehood.

It is said the disclosures have been the direct cause of the pharmacist being unable to obtain employment within the pharmacy profession. This has resulted in illness, stress and financial loss.

The pharmacist has also had to retrain to find employment outside the pharmacy field.

No hearing date has yet been allocation for the hearing of this claim.

In response, his former employer applied seeking disclosure of the pharmacist’s:

  • bank statements for all accounts (including credit cards) during his employment period;
  • medical and counselling history limited to alcohol and drug use, including his prescription history; and
  • communications between the pharmacist and the Pharmacy Council.

The pharmacy has argued that this information is relevant to its previous actions, now brought against them in the defamation case.

In October 2016 the pharmacist filed a claim in the Human Rights Review Tribunal, alleging his former employer was breaching his right to privacy of personal information.

This week, the tribunal decided that it is “abundantly clear” that the information sought by the former employer’s application is not discoverable because it is irrelevant to the issues to be determined.

It dismissed the pharmacy’s application for disclosure of the pharmacist’s personal information.

The case continues, with a case management teleconference to be held at the earliest opportunity and a hearing date yet to be set for the defamation claim.

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